The Straight Up Guide to Essential Oil Research

Whenever I talk about essential oils, it occurs to me that we have it all backwards. Why is it that the natural leaves and herbs, the stuff that nature intended to cure us, is considered “alternative,” while products that are developed in a lab and laden with chemicals are considered “mainstream?”

With that, it makes sense that some people are just skeptical about natural alternatives such as essential oils. It’s okay. I get it. Living in the pharmaceutical belt of the country, we probably have a lot of naysayers around here. What I wanted to do is collect the data behind the oils, the science – the research. As a former researcher myself, I understand the need for validation. You want proof from a third party. You want the essential oil research. So here it is, folks.

Before I begin, please note that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on this site. Though there is plenty of essential oil research, essential oils are not regulated by the FDA. (Again, this seems somewhat backwards thinking, does it not?) Because essential oils are not evaluated by the FDA, they are not formally regulated to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any illness.

With that said, here are some of the results of scientific studies on essential oils by ailment. The links to the studies are all highlighted in green.

The Straight Up Guide to Essential Oil Research

Seasonal allergies stink, particularly for people who have them during every season of the year. Both Lemon essential oil and Lavender essential oil have antioxidant properties that may help fight off seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis. Meanwhile, Sage also has disinfectant properties and has shown to manage airborne microbes when diffused.

A study of essential oil aromatherapy shows benefits in the treatment of Alopecia.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Essential oil aromatherapy research shows strong potential for improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

Many studies have been done to verify the benefits of essential oils for their powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties. Peppermint and Spearmint essential oil may be used as potential antibacterial agents for inhibition of the growth of pathogens. In one particular study, the oils derived from spices and herbs, such as Thyme, Mint, Cinnamon, and Clove were found to have some of the strongest antimicrobial properties. Oregano also has powerful antimicrobial effects. In fact, research shows that is as effective as detergent solution for hand washing and cleaning surfaces.

Bladder/Urinary Health
Ylang-Ylang has been shown to have a relaxing effect on the bladder, helpful for those with spasmodic issues.

Lavender has been shown to improve the blood’s circulation in the body. Applying Black Pepper to veins prior to needle insertion may help to make veins protrude for easier needle insertion.

Essential oils are being studied often for their potential benefits to cancer patients. After essential oils were inhaled, markers of the fragrance compounds were found in the bloodstream, suggesting that essential oil aromatherapy affects the body directly as well as indirectly through the central nervous system. To that end, Chamomile oil has shown significant effects on inhibiting cancer cell growth and mast cell degranulation, while Eucalyptus oil may boost immune system response which may protect the body after chemotherapy. Some patients have insomnia or restless nights after treatment, and Valerian essential oil has been shown in studies to help with a more restful night’s sleep.

As far as research towards specific cancers, Frankincense and Sandalwood together have shown to be effective in the treatment of bladder cancer. Blue Yarow may be effective for the treatment of skin cancer melanoma. Patchouli has shown to decrease cell growth in colorectal cancer cells, while Geranium has shown to aid in the reduction of colon cancer tumor growth.

Cognitive Function
In terms of cognitive function, Peppermint may help to enhance one’s memory as well as increase alertness. While it may lower stress levels, research shows that Lavender may also be effective for increasing attention span. Rosemary essential oil has been shown to enhance cognitive function, with significantly improved performance on concentration exercises. Sage oil has been shown to improve memory and attention.

Some school teachers diffuse a combination of these oils in the classroom (along with antimicrobial oils for killing germs).

Digestion/Nausea/Stomach Health
Eucalyptus oil is shown to be effective for gastrointestinal issues, as it decreases gastric retention and aids in the accelerating of liquids from the stomach. Lemongrass oil may help treat stomach pain and h pylori, while Oregano oil can help treat gastric ulcers. Lemon essential oil has shown to be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting, particularly during pregnancy.

Emotional/Mental Health
One of the most effective ways to utilize essential oils is for lowering stress levels and reducing anxiety. Several oils, such as Ylang Ylang and Orange essential oil have been shown to possess calming properties that can lower anxiety levels. One study of nursing students showed that Lavender and Rosemary oil were effective for reducing anxiety associated with test-taking. Together the two oils may lower cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress. Bergamot is also known to be effective in aiding the body’s response to stress and anxiety.

In a study of depression, Rosemary oil aromatherapy showed to be beneficial, while Sage may help to improve mood. And Lemon Balm (aka Melissa) has been shown to reduce agitation associated with dementia.

As already well known by many oil enthusiasts, Lavender essential oil may be an effective treatment for managing migraine headaches.

Heart Health/Metabolic Disease
Essential oils have tremendous potential in aiding proper heart health. Lavender oil has shown to decrease heart rate and improve blood flow.  Ylang Ylang oil can lead to a significant decrease of blood pressure. One study from 2013 found that Laurus Nobilis essential oil could be effective in the treatment of diabetes. Black Pepper oil may also be used in the fight against diabetes and hypertension, potentially even preventing them. Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa, is perhaps the most potent oil for heart health. It may help to regulate glucose levels in patients with diabetes, lower triglycerides, and help control of elevated cholesterol levels, according to scientific research. Lemon balm may also aid in the treatment of hypoglycemia when administered at low concentration.

On the other end of the heart health spectrum, Lime may be useful for people with metabolic disorders because it may benefit people suffering from dyslipidemia and hyperglycemia.

Cinnamon and Lavender essential oils are both effective herbicides, though Lavender most likely be effective either before planting or prior to transplantation of seedlings. Cardamom oil is also natural insecticide, making it a potentially terrific choice for natural pest control.

Lemon Balm (Melissa) has shown to have a direct antiviral effect on Herpes viruses. Its ability to penetrate the skin with a strong selectivity index makes it a potentially useful topical treatment for herpetic infections.

Infections and Viruses
It has been found that essential oils can be an effective alternative to antibiotics and potentially used to combat drug-resistant superbugs. In fact, four essential oils, Cinnamon, Oregano, Immupower and Purification all showed superior responses to both Penicillin and Ampicillin in their ability to kill the microorganisms. The antimicrobial properties in Lemongrass oil may even be an effective solution for helping to treat antibiotic resistant staph infections. Rosemary oil may also aid in fighting off drug resistant infections, while Oregano has been shown to be effective in battling the norovirus.

Lavender oil may  be used to combat common skin and nail infections, and a study on Lemon Myrtle found that it can treat molluscum.

Researchers have found that six essential oils, including Thyme, Clove, Rose, Eucalyptus, Fennel, and Bergamot, may each inhibit the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, working in a manner similar to resveratrol, the chemical linked to the health benefits of red wine. Lemon Balm (Melissa) essential oil has also been found to effectively help treat diseases associated with inflammation.

You may consider getting rid of all those chemical-filled lice shampoos, because Melaleuca oil may be effective for the immediate and long term treatment of head lice.

Liver Health
Garlic essential oil may reduce lipid accumulation, thus potentially having protective effects associated with improved liver health.

Essential oils have also been studied for their effects on menstrual issues. Essential oil massage over the abdomen may reduce the level and duration of menstrual pain, as well as the amount of menstrual bleeding. Lavender oil aromatherapy can alleviate emotional symptoms associated with PMS. Fennel and Anise oil having been shown to promote menstruation, which may be helpful for women with irregular cycles.

Oral Care
Essential oils have long been known for their effectiveness in oral care. Clove essential oil contains compounds that work just like fluoride, so it can prevent tooth decay and protect against oral bacteria. Peppermint, Tea Tree (Melaleuca) and Thyme oil may be effective antiseptic solution against oral pathogens.

Pain Management
Lavender oil aromatherapy is being more and more commonly used in hospitals. It has been shown to be effective post-surgery, particularly for common issues such as pain after tonsillectomy surgery.

Respiratory Health
Eucalyptus oil may aid in the body’s response to respiratory viruses and bacteria. Thyme essential may be effective for the treatment of respiratory infections. Lavender essential oil has shown to inhibit inflammation caused by asthma.

Salmonella/ E. Coli
The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of essential oils make them terrific options for food preservatives and for defending against salmonella. Basil essential oil has shown to have the ability to prevent salmonella in food. Lemongrass may inactivate salmonella on leafy greens. Tarragon essential oil has antibacterial properties, particularly shown on two important pathogen bacteria (S. aureus and E. coli) and may be applied as a preservative in foods such as cheese.

Angelica essential oil has also been shown to protect the body against seizures. In one study, Angelica suppressed the duration of seizure convulsions, delayed the onset of convulsions, and may have even stopped convulsions altogether.

Skin Care
Essential oils are widely used in skincare products for their antimicrobial properties. Lavender oil may be especially useful on the skin, and Melaleuca, also known as Tea Tree oil, may reduce histamine-induced skin irritations and inflammation. Copaiba has shown to be effective in fighting acne, due to its anti-inflammatory, healing, and antiseptic properties. And a recent article in Forbes even noted that essential oils are being used at barber spas and in luxury shaving lines.

Sleep Disorders/Disturbances
Valerian oil has long been known for its ability to help people sleep more soundly. From restless leg syndrome, to cancer patients, to women whose sleep patterns have changed due to menopause, Valerian may be a natural cure for sleepless nights.

Smoking Cessation
If you are trying to quit smoking or know someone who is, consider getting yourself some Black Pepper essential oil, which may significantly reduce cravings for nicotine and alleviate withdrawal from smoking addiction. Angelica oil has shown to have the ability to inhibit nicotine-induced behavioral and neurochemical sensitization, and may be effective in treating nicotine addiction.

Sports Performance
You heard it here, sports enthusiasts. Peppermint essential oil may have positive benefits for sports performance. It was shown to improve exercise performance, blood pressure, respiratory heart rate and other measures.

Women’s Health
Neroli oil is helpful for several women’s issues relating to hormones and hormonal changes. It may relieve menopausal symptoms, increase sexual desire, and reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women. Fennel and Anise oils having shown to increase milk secretion, promote menstruation, and increase libido. A low concentration of Geranium may be just enough to fight off vaginal yeast infections. One study showed that vaginal application of Geranium oil suppressed the infection when combined with washing the affected area. And for those women who have experienced insomnia due to menopause Valerian essential oil may help you rest more soundly.

So, are you convinced yet that there is something to these essential oils? I sure hope so! If you have been interested in trying essential oils for yourself, or if you are curious how they may potentially help you and your family, I would be happy to help you get started with Young Living essential oils. If you have a particular ailment that you would like to address, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post or email me at with any questions.

If you have additional essential oil research that you would like me to add to this list, please share it in the comments below!

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  1. This is an excellent article and resource. I will be bookmarking this for future reference. Thank you for putting this together.

  2. Maggie Santos Viera says:

    Great info :-)

  3. Where’s the research? Statistics? This is still showing that there is no scientific evidence to these oils. Simply stating that a study found oils to be useful isn’t sufficient. How many participants, variables, etc? In the end this is just pseudo science.

    • Thanks for your inquiry. Any of the live links in the post will get you to the research, where you can find the scientific data, participants, variables, etc. for each of the claims in the post.

  4. Confused….if you click on the names of the oils she has linked them to a study supporting her claims…check it out!

  5. I’m disappointed as the 3 articles I have now clicked on are poorly conducted science with methods and conclusions that do not show support of alleviating the ailment. They DO seem to show a very small increase with antioxidants being very slightly higher which is good. I have been looking into oils for some things but they may not be helpful for what I’m looking for. Thanks for sharing these peer reviewed articles. They have been very helpful.

  6. Is there anything for autism?

    • Log Cabin Mamma says:

      I have a friend who is an RN and has a son who was diagnosed with regressive autism shortly after an immunization at age 4. Up to age 4 her son was a normal communicative demonstrative little boy . After, he became completely withdrawn and uncommunicative. He continued to regress rapidly until at around age 14-15 she discovered YL Essential Oils. After approximately one yr. on a YL oil protocol he is completely verbal and becoming more and more demonstrative. He knows and ask for the oils he needs to do life. She says after 12 yrs. she is finally getting her son back.

  7. Yes, there are several things for autism. Go young living website. You want to reduce stress with Bergamont, geranium, and clary sage. Just a few drops in palm of hand and massage in. Stimulate senses, Basil, lemon, peppermint, and Rosemary. I am sure there are more you can use for other symptoms.

  8. Real scientist says:

    The first reference I checked was for the valerian OIL. However, the research cited was for a study which tested valerian in PILL form – 800 mg. You cannot generalize from one form of a chemical to another. This is an example of bad thinking.

  9. Do you have this (and part 2) as a PDF? I would love to be able to save it in my kindle and reference it when I don’t have an internet connection!

  10. Thank you <3

  11. what oil is best for tennitus?

  12. I think that if you are planning to show the studies and research, a quick statement at the top of the article would be great to show that they are linked in the article. If someone is quickly perusing this, they would think there is no research cited. Frankly, if I had not glanced at the comments, I would have dismissed this article because I didn’t see any. I will now read it and if it seems well done, I will share with my essential oil distributors.

  13. I would like to know if there is any oil that can relieve neuropathy in the feet. My Uncle has had it for 12 years and in facr will not have heart surgery if it means living longer with this pain. I have tried him on lemongrass and peppermint but they didn’t do any good at all.

    • Hi, Kay. The Quick Reference Guide to Using Essential Oils recommends Peppermint, Frankincense, Lemongrass and Valor essential oils for neurological injury. For Nueropathy, it recommends Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Roman Chamomile. Please feel free to email me if you’d like to get started!


  1. […] study reported on Science Daily’s website, and this from the University of Maryland. Also, this website has some stellar links. The above has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Essential oils are not meant […]

  2. […] The Straight Up Guide to Essential Oil Research […]

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